Iconic AQ Chicken restaurant to close in Springdale

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 5,839 views 

The original AQ Chicken House in Springdale will close this month after nearly 76 years in business at 1207 N. Thompson St. It’s the sole location for the restaurant since the Fayetteville location closed in 2016 and a Bentonville location burned nearly 20 years ago.

On Thursday (March 2), manager Kalessa Sanders said the restaurant will close on March 18. The restaurant has about 25 staff. Sanders referred other questions to owner Dick Bradley, who’d already left for the day.

Roy Ritter opened AQ Chicken House on July 20, 1947, when chickens were raised and slaughtered behind the restaurant, along a dusty dirt road that is U.S. Highway 71. The poultry industry pioneer served southern-style chicken dinners to tourists and area visitors amid a lack of sit-down restaurants north of Springdale.

In 1952, Vice President Alben W. Barkley ate there. President Bill Clinton had pan-fried chicken there with friends after the dedication of Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in 1998. And, President George W. Bush was served AQ chicken aboard Air Force One during a campaign stop at XNA in 2000.

More than a decade ago, Bradley celebrated the restaurant’s 65th anniversary and offered $4.99 specials for items on the menu that normally cost more than $10. Bradley noted the most popular item at the time was the $10.99 chicken “cooked over the coals” served with spaghetti and sauce.

Bradley worked for Cargill Inc. for 17 years and was a chicken grower for Tyson Foods before opening the Atlanta Bread Co. in Fayetteville in 1997. The following year, Bradley paid more than $3 million for the two AQ locations after selling his Lincoln chicken farm. The Fayetteville location opened in 1991.

Other AQ owners included Frank Hickingbotham, who created TCBY Enterprises Inc., and Ron Palmer, who owned AQ for 17 years before selling it to Bradley in 1998.

AQ Chicken House has been a finalist three times (2021, 2020, 2019) for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame.